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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Subcommittee Recommends Approving Dark Skies

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee or ZORACES held a special meeting on a proposed citywide lighting ordinance last week.
Last month, the city council had directed the proposal go to ZORACES for its recommendations and also directed the staff to begin the Request for Proposal process.
The council asked the subcommittee “to consider a comprehensive citywide lighting ordinance based on the most recent version of the Model Lighting Ordinance template prepared by the International Dark-Sky Association and Illuminating Engineering Society.”
Subcommittee members Councilmembers John Sibert and Skylar Peak, assisted by the planning staff,, chose option one for the recommendation to the council.
Sibert and Peak agreed that the city should try to adopt the MLO with minor modifications.
“It was a positive meeting. Everyone was in agreement,” said Peak. “Hopefully it can get done sooner than later.”
Planning Commission member John Mazza, who was chair at the time and had sought commission approval to forward the panel’s recommendation for a dark skies ordinance said, “I’m very gratified the city council unanimously followed the commission recommendation.”
Mazza also pointed out that there was no opposition to the proposal at the ZORACES meeting.
Option one, as outlined by the staff, would rely on the MLO, which is considered to be the most comprehensive lighting template available to municipalities and is the product of a seven-year working relationship between the dark sky preservationists and the professional lighting engineers.
The MLO builds upon typical dark sky ordinances by incorporating scientifically-based methodology to limit the total amount of light in the environment to what is actually needed. The MLO also seeks to create improved standards for energy conservation, according to city planners.
Other options included creating a simplified lighting ordinance based on MLO standards or create an ordinance to strengthen lighting standards that are not based on MLO provisions
As some council members are wont to say, “The devil is in the details.” Questions remain to be answered include: should street lighting standards be included for private and city-owned streets? Should enforcement and/or monetary penalties be included in an ordinance?
What about budget considerations for additional staff or an ongoing consultant to assist in reviewing lighting plans for conformance with the ordinance?
It appeared that council members were swayed by city planners’ rationale. In a memo to subcommittee members, planners explained the advantages to adopting some kind of version of the MLO.
 “The MLO would create a lighting overlay similar to a regular zoning map across the city with various areas divided up into lighting zones ranging from Lighting Zone O to LZ4. An applicant would first identify which lighting zone they were in and then look to the ordinance for the specific rules in that lighting zone. The advantage with this option is that lighting zones are applied on a site and/or use-specific context in lieu of generally applying lighting standards to land uses,” the staff report explains.
The advantages, according to city staff, is that the MLO already includes a solid ordinance framework and the model ordinance represents the most advanced and comprehensive lighting template available for municipal use.
Subcommittee members were told one of the biggest downsides is that no other municipality has implemented the MLO in its entirety.
While staff was seeking direction they were firm in recommending an option be included in the RFP with the caveat that a conformance evaluation also be included in the scope for integration within the LCP and Malibu Municipal Code and functionality with the city’s building code requirements.
Another option, which was not tapped by the subcommittee, suggested by municipal planners, would be use the MLO as a template, but in lieu of adopting the MLO as a package, create a simplified version that incorporates general elements of the MLO.
That option, according to planners, would also remove the creation of a lighting overlay and instead, tie lighting zones to general land uses and/or broad geographical areas.

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